State of Play: Sony PlayStation
Sony has been a mainstay in console gaming. The console have arguably dominated this generation and have a number of exclusives which will guarantee they will finish this console generation on top. But what does the future hold in store for Sony?
First, let me start off by making one thing clear: I am not a fanboy. The concept of a fanboy is ridiculous to me, as this means you are blindly faithful to one company, person or thing. A fanboy is unwilling to look at something critically and give an unbiased and objective opinion on something. However, I will say that I have been loyal to the PlayStation brand this generation.
This is due to Sony's stance on gaming. I have always mainly brought Sony's previous consoles but this changed when the Xbox 360 was announced. When I watched the unveiling of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360; it was evident that I (or more specifically my mother) would not be able to afford a PS3. I instead begrudgingly was given an Xbox 360, which was a lot cheaper than its competition. I was only 16 years old when I got an Xbox, so I did not have the ability to buy any console of my choosing. I quickly came to realise that this was in fact a blessing in disguise; not only did a number of developers decide to develop their games for the Xbox 360 as well as the PlayStation 3 but all of my friends also purchased XBox's, due to them being in a similar predicament. This meant all of the game franchises that I loved were being released for the console that I had and I had a strong personal community of friends who I could play with whenever I wanted to.
The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were released at a time where I had a full time job and could afford to purchase any (and all) console(s) I desired. I excitedly watched their unveiling at E3 and knew instantly which console I would be purchasing: the PlayStation 4. Microsoft announced that the XBox One would have a number of mandatory features that did not appeal to me. First of all, the console would require an internet connection at all times. This was not much of an issue, as I always played my games online anyway but thought it was weird that Microsoft would force gamer's to have to abide by this strange rule (this included offline only games as well). This meant that for anyone who lived in an area with a bad or non-existent internet connection, would have trouble (or not be able to) playing games. Secondly, you could not borrow a friends game in the old-fashioned way, nor could you purchase pre-owned games as you had done so in the past. This showed me that Microsoft had no idea what they were doing and no idea about their audience: gamers. Some of my fondest moments were rummaging through the pre-owned section in CEX or Games Master (My s^&tty local game store), finding a pre-owned game I knew little to nothing about (the internet was not as readily available at the time, so I was unable to check what type of games they were or if they were any good) and purchasing it because the box art looked good and the game sounded interesting. In hindsight, this would not have been a big deal, as I have mainly purchased all of my games brand new, seeing as the older I get, the less time I have to play games and I only buy games that interest me and seem to be received well by critics. Thirdly, Microsoft opted to make the Kinect 2.0 mandatory. The console and the kinect were bundled together and not sold separately and the kinect was required in order for the console itself to function. This may not have been a big deal but it resulted in the console being relatively expensive, as gamers would have to buy the console and kinect together. These three factors solidified my decision to buy a PlayStation 4 this generation. Microsoft ended up backtracking on all of these features but the damage had been done. Nintendo's Wii U's main problem was its inability to really offer anything new or 'Next-generation'. The PlayStation 3 and XBox 360 enabled console gamers to experience HD gaming for the first time. The Wii, although not a HD console, reinvented the way we interacted with and played games, thanks to its new controller. This was enough to (arguably) win the seventh console generation. The Wii U was simplified by gamers as a PlayStation 3 or XBox 360, with a tablet controller and this proved to not be enough, when compared to its competition, who were offering 4K games (admittedly this would not really be true until later) and much more powerful hardware overall. Nintendo has infamously had relatively poor 3rd party support, which did not help them to sell many consoles.
Sony had fumbled with the PlayStation 3 and they had learnt from their mistakes. The released the PlayStation 4 with a clear and concise message: That this was for the players. Every decision Sony has made this generation shows that they have the gamers best interest in mind (Apart from their stance on cross platform support) and that they are aware of what gamers desire. This is evident due to the price of the console and their online service and even the games their first party studios develop. In comparison to Microsoft and Nintendo, they focused on what had made them one of the 3 gaming brands known today. Nintendo have always been the most innovative video game company and have never been afraid to try new things with their hardware. They brought the analogue stick to mainstream consoles with the N64 (Other previous consoles had variations of analogue sticks but Nintendo popularised it, making it a stable for console controllers); they introduced proper motion sensor gaming to gamers and now have perfected portable gaming. Sony, however, are the most 'by the books'. Sony have done very little to spice up their hardware offerings, continuing to simply beef up their specs as opposed to offer new and innovative ways of playing. The PlayStation 4 is the only console which offers VR support but this is another example of them sticking to the books as VR has been something that has been forecasted for years and already has a decent audience on PC. The sheer amount of AAA PlayStation exclusives which have been released this generation is nothing short of impressive.
The image shows the PlayStation 4's top rated exclusive titles (scores taken from Metacritic). The selection of games shown are mainly single-player only and are nicely varied. Sony has a nice mix of games and other than Uncharted, each game is from an entirely different video game series. The selection is comprised of third person titles all with a very different feel. There are 3 shooting games, 3 action/RPGs, 1 JRPG, 1 open-world super hero title ... you get the picture. These are critically acclaimed games that are only available on the PlayStation 4 (Nioh is also available on the PC) which has bolstered the PlayStation's sales. This is not including third-party titles and a large number of other exclusives still rated 80 or above. Now compare PlayStation's first party lineup to Microsoft's.
This image shows the Xbox One's top rated exclusive titles (scores once again taken from Metacritic). Although the average is only 3.7 percent lower than the PlayStation's lineup; the games themselves are much less varied. 4 of the 10 games are all from the same franchise and are all driving games. This means if you are not a fan of realistic driving simulators, these will not appeal to you. You then have 3 first person shooters, 1 third person shooter, a side-scroller and a consortium of old-school Rare(ware) titles. The Xbox does not have a large number of other exclusive titles and the games that it does have are not rated nearly as highly as their PlayStation counterparts. It may not help that the majority of the Xbox's first party games are also available on Microsoft Windows. I personally like this, as a gamer, I do not necessarily like the idea of Exclusives, as it means I have to buy certain consoles if I want to play certain games (I literally brought a WII U just for Breath of the Wild). This, however, may not have helped the Xbox's sales, as gamers who own a PC running Microsoft Windows, are able to play the majority of exclusives released on Xbox. I do believe, however, that Microsoft has a very different strategy than Sony (more on this on the 'State of Play: Microsoft Xbox' article)
Sony seem to have realised what they have done wrong in the past and they do not seem like they are likely to make the same mistakes again. All information indicates that the PlayStation 5 will be a beast of a console. There are of course loads of details that Sony has yet to release for their upcoming console, so it is hard to form an opinion on their future. I feel that if Sony stick to their guns and continue to produce brilliant AAA exclusive titles, they can continue their dominance for the next generation. On the other hand, gaming as a whole is evolving. Soon we will have Netflix-type gaming services, which could see consoles become obsolete. Sony can combat this change by developing amazing games that are only available on its next platform or by strengthening their own streaming service: PlayStation Now. In my opinion, the future of gaming is streaming but there will always be enthusiasts, who prefer to store their games locally as opposed to online. It is hard to predict exactly what the future holds for gaming but one thing is for sure: Sony is definitely here to stay.